Thursday

23rd May 2019

Far-right party helps to bring down Swedish government

  • Lofven took power on 3 October (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Sweden’s left-green coalition has called elections on 22 March after an anti-immigrant party helped defeat its draft budget.

Stefan Lofven, the Socialist Democrat PM, announced the move on Wednesday (3 December) following a parliament vote on his spending proposals.

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His budget fell when the Sweden Democrats, which says the Nordic country should cut immigration by 90 percent, voted together with four centre-right parties, including the Moderates of former prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and former foreign minister Carl Bildt.

The right-wing bloc won by 182 votes to 153, with the Sweden Democrats holding 49 seats in the Riksdag.

Lofven’s government had been in power for just 69 days, making it the second-shortest in Swedish history since PM Felix Harmin in 1932 (49 days).

The March election also marks Sweden’s first extraordinary vote since 1958.

Lofven told press on Wednesday he took the step because he couldn't let the Sweden Democrats - considered pariahs by mainstream Swedish society - “dictate the terms” of how he rules the country.

“The [centre-right] parties did not take responsibility for their promise not to give the Sweden Democrats decisive influence in Swedish politics – this is an irresponsible action of these parties and is unprecedented in our political history”, he noted.

His party added in a statement the centre-right gave the Sweden Democrats a licence to “create chaos” on the political scene by refusing to negotiate with the left.

For his part, Bildt said on Twitter the situation is a: “Unique crisis. Very little will be the same after this”.

But he blamed Lofven for the mess, saying the Socialists made a “critical mistake” and “burned bridges” by refusing to accommodate the right’s budget concerns.

Annie Loof, the head of the centre-right Centre Party, said Lofven had “thrown down a gauntlet”.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Sweden Democrats, Mattias Karlsson, said the March election will be a “de facto referendum” on immigration.

“Immigration is devouring too many resources and is tearing Sweden apart … we will focus entirely on this issue”.

Sweden, home to some 10 million people, is on course to handle 83,000 asylum applications in 2014 - the highest per capita rate in the EU.

It projects 95,000 claims next year, compared to 55,000 in 2013. The majority come from Syria after Sweden offered permanent residence to people fleeing the civil war.

Fringe far-right parties causing an upset in mainstream politics is emerging as a new pattern in Europe.

Anti-immigrant and anti-EU factions in France, the Netherlands, and in the UK have swayed the centre-left and centre-right toward more populist policies.

The situation is also similar in Finland, where the anti-EU Finns Party - the third largest in parliament - has orchestrated a vote of no confidence in the ruling coalition on Thursday over its contribution to EU bailout funds.

Swiss voters reject immigration cap

Switzerland has rejected a plan to cut net immigration to no more than 0.2 percent of the population, following a referendum on Sunday.

Sweden beset by anti-migrant arson attacks

Ten asylum homes across Sweden were set alight in October. As police search for the culprits, debate is rife on how to cope with the influx of migrants and the rhetoric of the far-right Sweden Democrats.

Key details on how Europeans will vote

It's one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world with over 400 million eligible voters. National rules apply, and national parties run, but the stakes are at European level.

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